Small Pittsfield company looms big in the spice trade

Sunday, January 5, 2003

PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- Go ahead. Take a whiff. The scent of spices and seasonings fills the air.

"The first time I walked in here, it was overwhelming, but you get used to it," Dave Riley said.

It's the smell of success for Pittsfield-based Riley's Seasonings and Spices -- and the spice of life for customers across the country.

"It's all over. We've got it in Florida, Texas. We just sold a restaurant in Dayton, Ohio," Riley said. "It's a lot of fun. It just keeps growing on its own."

Dave and Jane Riley own the business first launched by his third cousin, Wayne Riley.

"He was a farmer," Riley said of his relative. "He started cooking whole hogs as a hobby. He started with one or two and grew to where he could cook 50 at one time. He traveled all over Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, some in Indiana."

Unique combination

And when it came to seasoning his cooking, Wayne Riley didn't like to use what everyone else was using, Dave Riley said. Instead, he developed his own seasoning combination, and it really captured people's tastebuds.

People wanted to buy the seasoning, so Wayne Riley began selling his combination in 1974.

"He started out putting it in old soda bottles with resealable caps," Dave Riley said. "He started adding other spices with it. It kept growing by word of mouth."

Wayne Riley sold the business in 1995 to Rick and Madelyn Orr, who sold it to Dave and Jane Riley in July 2000. At the time, Riley worked for a feed and chemical dealership in Pittsfield, but he was ready to take a chance on running his own business.

"I was always interested in this business," Riley said. "My ultimate goal is to go national, but we're a long way away from that. (Still) We have 45-46 states, and we ship a little bit to Canada, Mexico and overseas."

The top seller is the original all-purpose seasoning, the product that launched the business.

"The product sells itself once people try it," Riley said. "It's 14 different spices. It's just a unique combination and the right amount of spices."

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